I love historic hotels. The Driskill, constructed in 1886 as the showcase of cattle baron Colonel Jesse Driskill, is Austin’s legendary shining star, deep in the heart of Texas. Located downtown at Brazos and 6th Street, the oldest operating hotel in Austin is five blocks from the State Capitol, near the Austin Convention Center, and steps from the downtown music and entertainment district.
Note: The Driskill hosted me; however, all opinions are my own.
History Of The Driskill Hotel
The Driskill comprises two connected buildings, the original four-story 1886 Romanesque Revival hotel and a 13-story annex constructed in 1930 by El Paso architecture firm Trost & Trost. Created with over 6 million pressed bricks and white limestone accents, the Driskill boasted two entrances that contained Texas’s most prominent Richardsonian-style arches. The façade exhibits three limestone busts of Driskill and his two sons, with Driskill facing 6th Street, surrounded by decorative carvings of longhorns and twisted lizards.
The hotel, listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 25, 1969, was saved from the wrecking ball by a nonprofit group that raised $900,000.
In 1934, President Lyndon B. Johnson met his future wife Claudia Lady Bird Taylor for their first date at the Driskill dining room. The hotel became his campaign headquarters during his 1948 Senate race and throughout his political career. LBJ watched the results of his 1964 Presidential Election from the Presidential Suite, and he addressed his supporters from the ballroom after his victory.
Rooms At The Driskill
I stayed in the Heritage Suite, Room 255, on the historic mezzanine. An entry with a gold mirrored hall tree leads to the spacious king bedroom with soaring ceilings, hardwood floors, a desk, a sitting area, a dining table with two chairs, and a bar with a refrigerator and coffeemaker.
The bathroom has dual sinks and a claw-foot tub backed by a 10-foot ornate stained-glass panel that is the room’s focus. The large shower hosts dual rainfall showerheads, luxurious bath amenities, dramatic black and gold tile, and an engraved “D” on the shower door.
The roomy walk-in closet holds plenty of space for hanging clothes, a safe, an ironing board, and a luggage rack. The balcony with two chairs boasts a western city view. Vintage touches and classic artwork create an unforgettable ambiance.
The Driskill offers a variety of elegant accommodations featuring modern comfort and luxuries, classic styling, and custom furniture, with 175 luxurious guest rooms and 14 newly renovated suites. Many wedding receptions are held here in the beautiful banquet halls.
The deluxe king offers excellent cityscape views, a king bed, a comfortable sitting area, a sleeper sofa, a work desk, and a custom marble or Art Deco tiled bathroom.
The Lyndon B. Johnson suite includes portraits of the presidential couple in the entryway. It offers regal and modern details, including a walk-in shower and an impressive 10-foot-stained glass wall reflecting Ladybird’s love of the Texas bluebonnets. See 6th Street’s iconic views when you open the private balcony doors.
Other Amenities At The Driskill
The Driskill offers an authentic culinary experience for guests and visitors at the Victorian 1886 Café & Bakery and The Driskill Bar. For breakfast, I enjoyed the delicious Lady Bird Omelet made with egg whites, spinach, mushrooms, tomato, and feta and served with country potatoes and multigrain toast. The following day, I ordered the avocado toast, switching the two sunny side eggs to scrambled eggs with feta, pepitas, radish, alfalfa sprouts, and tomato with multigrain toast, served with a mixed green salad.
Other brunch favorites included Helen Corbitt’s Famous Cheese Soup, Texas-Shaped Pecan Waffles with fresh berries and whipped cream, Texas Migas, or Brazos Huevos Rancheros.
From the revolver light fixtures, the longhorn hung over the fireplace, the cowhide barstools, and leather sofas, The Driskill Bar earned its title “Best Bar in Texas” by Southern Living Magazine. The best margarita is Samantha’s Ghost, made with mezcal, tequila, Grand Marnier, and lemon, or the Durango Cowboy, a mixture of sotol, Grand Marnier, sweet and sour, and muddled strawberries.
For eats, try the baked brie with toasted ciabatta, green apple wedges, or the sweet and spicy chili glazed brussels sprouts. The pork belly tacos with jicama slaw, avocado crema, queso cotija, on corn tortillas are to die for. You can’t miss the Caesar salad, with added shrimp to shaved parmesan, bacon, chives, and cornbread croutons.
Pro Tip: Have room service deliver the 1886 Chocolate Cake to your room. Oh yeah!
Why The Driskill Hotel Is Perfect For A Weekend Getaway
More than 135 years after opening, The Grand Dame Driskill remains a one-of-a-kind icon in Austin and one of the most well-known hotels in Texas. Just valet-park your car and settle into the luxurious comforts of home.
Explore a comprehensive collection of museum-quality artwork throughout the hotel, and you can even take a tour. See the life-size portrait of Colonel Driskill on the stair landing overlooking the grand columned lobby with marble floors and an ornate skylight that features the Texas Lone Star.
Enjoy a café-style afternoon tea, a long-standing tradition, with three classic courses as you sip exquisite teas and champagne.
Ghost Stories At The Driskill
Several ghost stories linger in the halls and staircases of this beautiful, iconic hotel. Beware. Colonel Driskill hangs out in one of the rooms overlooking 6th Street and Brazos, looking out the window and puffing on a sweet-smelling cigar. Cigar smells linger there.
A jilted bride-to-be in room 329 spent over $40,000 on a shopping spree, then returned and shot herself. She still wanders the halls with her shopping bags.
A painting on the hotel’s fifth floor depicts a little girl holding a bouquet and a love letter who died in a terrible accident at the hotel. Sometimes children can be heard running in the halls and laughing.
A little boy tumbled down the stairs as he played with a bouncing ball. Paranormal investigators captured the sounds of a bouncing ball and mischievous giggles.
Things To Do Near The Driskill Hotel
Stay at the Driskill and find many things to do near the hotel.
Texas State Capitol Building
I walked five blocks to the Texas Capitol Building and took a 30-minute tour. We ventured through the rotunda, viewing the dome’s star, the House Chamber, the Senate Chamber, the café, and the gift shop.
Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
I toured the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library — located on the University of Texas Campus — starting with the Lady Bird exhibition about her life and legacy. The Great Hall features a spectacular view of four floors of glass-enclosed presidential archives, a mural, and an engraved presidential seal. The mural, a 50-foot-long photo engraving, depicts Johnson’s political career as a congressman, senator, senate majority leader, vice president, and president of the United States.
Urban Bats At Congress Avenue Bridge
At the Richards Congress Avenue Bridge from May through October, 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats emerged nightly to hunt for food, the largest urban bat colony in the world.
Lady Bird Lake
In 1960, the city of Austin created Lady Bird Lake, formerly Town Lake on the Colorado River, with a surface area of 416 acres. The lake offers kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, and biking.
Stroll Rainey Street’s renovated houses turned into bars and restaurants famous for nightlife, live music, dining, and the arts. You’ll find dog-friendly patios, 100-plus beers on tap, creative food truck cuisine, sweet donuts, coffee shops, and art museums.
Tips For Visiting The Driskill
The World of Hyatt offers a “Keeping Up With The Johnson’s” promotion, recognizing the Driskill as President Johnson’s unofficial headquarters. Enjoy a one-hour kayak or paddleboard rental on Lady Bird Lake, two tickets to the LBJ Library, and two cocktails in the renowned Driskill Bar.
Or immerse yourself in the Driskill’s history with two tickets to the Driskill history tour, a stay on the historical side of the hotel, and a café-style afternoon tea for two in the 1886 Café & Bakery.
Suite Celebration offers a memorable getaway in one of the newly renovated luxurious suites with a locally crafted box of Texas chocolates, a bottle of refreshing champagne, and a $50 food and beverage credit at the Driskill Bar and 1886 Café & Bakery.